Kenjutsu- the use of the Japanese sword is an important part of our martial arts training, and in this post I wanted to explore some of the ideas of *why* we train with the sword.
As a historical part of Japanese culture, in the here and now of modern today, what place does the sword have in practice?
Why not focus on more current skills?
We begin by asking the question- can one truly study the Japanese martial arts without studying the sword?
As a starting point we approach the sword as a way to understand distance in the martial arts. Much like the six foot stick (bo) explores long range, the sword at 3 feet explores a shorter range of movement. The ideas of distance, timing, rhythm and balance are components of our taijutsu movement, and they can be hard for new students to physically see- by using training tools such as the stick and the sword they are easier to *see*, isolate, and practice. On a practical level, used this way they have tremendous value.
At the next level we study the sword for the sake of the sword- understanding it as a historical training tool, and preserving the culture of shinken gata- real fighting, but there is a level beyond this.
Later in our taijutsu training we explore the idea of juppo sesshou- one of the highest levels of understanding of movement, and these are done and transmitted through the use of the sword- again as a tool and vehicle- which means one has to have a few years, perhaps a decade in on sword training to understand that aspect of the transmission- holding the sword, postures, cuts, and forms.